D Day vet honoured with French medal
A blind war veteran from Chorley was awarded the French LÃ©gion D'Honneur Medal at a special ceremony today.
The event in honour of Fred Simpson, 94, was held at Chorley Town Hall on Saturday.
Fred was just 21 when he took part in the D-Day landings as a gunner.
He said that although he was honoured to receive the Medal he still remembers the friends he fought alongside.
“I’m pleased to get it, but remember also those who didn’t come home or to survive this long after the war receive it,” said Fred.
Fred said after the ceremony: “It’s been great.”
Among those who attended were Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, the Mayor of Chorley, councillor Mark Perks and a representative from the French consulate in Liverpool.
The Légion D’Honneur is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte.
The French government has been awarding it to D-Day veterans from many different countries for several years, as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought to secure France’s liberation during the war.
Renata Gomes, from Blind Veterans UK, said: “The Légion D’Honneur is obviously a great honour and having veterans like Fred who survived the D Day landings, it’s something very unique and amazing and they have truly fought for our freedom and Fred is a living example of our past.”
She said Fred was a ‘very cheerful and friendly’ person who had been though a lot, adding: “All we can do is help organise these things and help our blind veterans live their lives to the fullest.
“It’s an honour to have a member like Fred and be with him all the way.”
The young signaller landed at Arromanches in the second wave of the invasion of Normandy.
He was serving with 94th field regiment 43rd Wessex division of the Royal Artillery.
Looking back at his time in service Fred added: “At first I was frightened like most of the other soldiers things were moving fast, but I learnt to keep going and following orders.
“Things got better when you realised that everyone one else was in the same situation, it made you more willing to join a combined effort.
“A lot of the sights and smells you experience during the war like dead soldiers and horses are best forgotten.
“I don’t like remembering that some of my mates didn’t reach 24 and I’ve managed to reach 94.”
Fred was at the Bayeux, Caen, Battle for Hill 112 and Mont Pincon where he sent firing orders to the officers in charge of the field guns.
Just before the Battle of the Bulge his regiment was recalled to train for the 6th airborne for the invasion of Japan, but they surrendered before the troops were needed.
He was later sent to Palestine.